Refugees — The ‘Anawim’ of the Lord Today – Bishops’ Conference President

REFUGEES — THE ‘ANAWIM’ OF THE LORD TODAY

Decades ago, the Philippines was host to the “boat people”, hundreds if not thousands of Vietnamese fleeing their homeland, following the fall of what was then called Saigon.  Our country then served as some kind of a way-station, because our Vietnamese guests soon found their way to other parts of the globe.  One of them, in fact, rose through the ranks of ecclesiastical academe to become dean of theology at one of Rome’s Pontifical Universities.  It was a glorious chapter in our history, and we thank God that many of our priests and religious received the privilege of serving them.

Once more, refugees in flimsy boats, are making their way to our shores,  having endured appalling conditions aboard these vessels.  Doubtlessly, many lost their lives in the attempt to find some haven.  They navigate into our waters tired, famished, desperate — many of them carrying the dead bodies of their children in their arms. 

It is however a saddening fact that some countries in our Southeast Asian region have turned these refugees away, refusing them the comfort of even just a temporary stay. Ironically, the countries that turn refugees away view with each other for tourists and investors!  In many instances, coast guard and naval patrol vessels tow these boats, brimming over with their load of our hungry, sick and desperate brothers and sisters back to the high seas, there to face the elements, and often, sadly, to perish!

The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has passed on our moral obligation in respect to refugees:

Progress in the capacity to live together within the universal human family is closely linked to the growth of a mentality of hospitality. Any person in danger who appears at a frontier has a right to protection. In order to make it easier to determine why such people have abandoned their country, as well as to adopt lasting solutions, a renewed commitment is needed to produce internationally acceptable norms for territorial asylum.(9) Such an attitude facilitates the search for common solutions and undercuts the validity of certain positions, sometimes put forward, that would limit acceptance and the granting of the right of asylum to the sole criterion of national interest. (n. 10)

While it may be true that there is no legal obligation on the part of the Republic of the Philippines or that of any other country to grant asylum to every refugee or displaced person, there is a moral obligation to protect them from the harm they flee from.  There is a legal obligation not to forcibly repatriate them.  And by all precepts of morality and decency, there is an obligation not to leave them to the  mercilessness of the elements on the high seas.

In the Old Testament one of the sternest commands God gave his people was to treat the stranger with mercy and compassion because, God reminded his people, “you too were once strangers in the Land of Egypt.”  If anything at all, the plight of displaced persons and refugees makes clear to us how the artificial boundaries that we establish between ourselves — principally geographical and political boundaries — can in fact become barriers to that hospitality towards the other that makes us human, that marks us out as sons and daughters of an ever-welcoming Father.

We laud our government for its attitude of hospitality towards refugees, even as we urge other nations in the region, in the name of our common humanity and the common Father we recognize, to allow these refugees succor and assistance.  For while our own economic resources may not allow us to to welcome every migrant as a permanent resident of our country, still there is always room for the weary and burdened to rest on our shores before they continue on their journey.

Once, our land was resplendent not only because of tourist spots and destinations, but because we welcomed refugees with the hospitality that has made us famous the world over.  God gives us this chance once more to bind the wounds of body and spirit, warm the hearts and embrace in solidarity our brothers and sisters who come to us from troubled lands.  Let the Philippines be a place where they can dream of a future of promise, possibly in other lands and where helping hands and generous hearts may make their dreams come true.

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
   President, CBCP

CBCP President to Catholic churches, schools: shelter refugees of looming typhoon

Hagupit JTWC image

JTWC image  http://www.usno.navy.mil/JTWC/

Typhoon Hagupit with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph on Wednesday afternoon and gustiness up to 184 mph, has been reported approaching the same area in central Philippines battered by Super Typhoon Haiyan Nov. 8 last year.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the U.S. Navy forecasts further strengthening of the storm with sustained winds possibly peaking at 185 mph.

As of Wednesday afternoon it was located about 148 nautical miles north-northeast of Koror in Palau.

As priests and parish workers reported over Church-run radio Veritas 846 that some rain had started in the Philippines eastern coastal communities in Samar and Leyte provinces, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), appealed to government to start evacuation and avoid disaster.

Archbishop Villegas also appealed to Catholic churches and schools to open up to refugees seeking shelter from the storm.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) /NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) / NJ Viehland Photos

Following is the full text of the CBCP president’s letter on looming typhoon Hagupit.

My brothers and sisters in Christ:

Meteorologists inform us that HAGUPIT is now a super-typhoon and most predict that it will make land-fall over the very same areas hard-hit by Yolanda.  The CNN resident meteorologist has just characterized it as the strongest of super-typhoon this year.

Let us all first pray, and the Filipinos far from the danger-zone are asked nevertheless to join the entire nation for those in harm’s way.

I plead with government officials and NGOs to commence evacuation now.  To wait any longer may be disastrous.  There is no such thing as an excess of caution, especially when faced with a danger so severe.

I appeal to our Catholic churches and schools to open their doors to refugees and those badly in need of shelter, particularly those already displaced by Yolanda.  I request only that evacuees remember the sacred character of the churches they occupy, should they do so.

Together with my brother-bishops, I commend the entire nation to the mercy, love and providence of our Father.

Lord, spare our land from this typhoon!

December 4, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

CBCP President

In Rome CBCP President reflects on poverty, migration, Filipino family

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) /NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (right) /NJ Viehland Photos

POVERTY, MIGRATION AND FAMILY
Archbishop Socrates B Villegas
CBCP President, October 16, 2014

Rome – Because the family is also an economic unit, poverty impacts on it — more often than not (though not necessarily), negatively.  While inspiring stories are told of families that have emerged stronger after having been tested in the crucible of poverty, more often, poverty inflicts terrible wounds on members of the family and sadly, many times, there is never a complete recovery!

Of the nations of Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranks among the highest in the dispersal of its citizens throughout the world.  In fact, there is hardly a corner of the world that one will not find a Filipino.  In Rome alone, there is a sizable and vibrant Filipino community.  And it would be a case of undue generalization to make the claim that it is poverty that drives Filipinos from their homeland to seek their fortunes elsewhere. 

We are not the poorest nation, but those who rank lower than us in the economic scale are not as dispersed as we are.  This compels us, if we are to understand the phenomenon of the Filipino family in the 21st century better, to look elsewhere for plausible explanations.

Many Filipinos who are abroad are nurses, teachers and other professionals, among these, engineers and agriculturists.  They are therefore not at the bottom of the economic scale. In fact, as professionals they would not have really been hungry had they remained home in the Philippines.  In dialogues with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), it has become clear that many who have sought employment abroad have done so because they feel, rightly or wrongly, that in the Philippines, they do not get what they deserve. 

Philippines hospital doctors, nurses and staff / NJ Viehland Photos

Philippines hospital doctors, nurses and staff / NJ Viehland Photos

The phenomenon of the nursing profession makes for an interesting case study.  At one time, the Philippines fielded nurses all over the world, and till the present, many nurses in the United States and in Europe are Filipinos.  And as schools of nursing proliferated in the Philippines, we overstocked the labor market with nurses and really killed the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg.  There has been a deleterious slump in the demand for Filipino nurses.  Many schools of nursing have closed down, and graduates of the nursing curriculum have had to seek employment as call-center agents, sales representatives, etc.

The point seems to be clear: In the Filipino psyche is a romanticized notion of the West as the land of opportunity accompanied by a deprecatory assessment of the Philippine situation.  It is not really poverty alone, nor perhaps principally, that sunders families.  It is rather the idealization of the West — and, for non-professionals, or manual laborers, the Middle East — as the land of promise.

Many marriages are threatened by the separation of couples owing to overseas employment of one or the other spouse; this peculiarity of the national social psyche is threatening for it can only mean that not even the family is powerful enough a factor to keep Filipinos home, especially when, we observe, the Filipinos who pack their bags and seek employment abroad are not really impoverished Filipinos.

There is no doubt that the unprincipled aggressive recruitment policies of many Western corporations and business establishments, eager for cheap labor, induce Filipinos with dreams of immediate, though unrealistic, prosperity.  Talk to any OFW and you will be impressed at the grasp he or she has of terms relating to placement fees, payment schemes, salaries, benefits, wages, privileges…all this, obviously the result of sweetened deals packaged so as to attract cheap Filipino labor to country’s where a successful birth-control program has a very thin younger sector to take care of an increasingly aging population! 

This takes us to a more involved sociological issue that the Philippine church must resolutely and studiously confront: Does the family still matter to the Filipino, and does it matter sufficiently to come before every other consideration that may sacrifice the unity of the family? To cling to idyllic pictures from the past of members of the family cohesively constituting an economic unit working not only in proximity to each other but living under the same roof will be a disservice to a Church that is sparing nothing to be more effective in its pastoral care for members of the family.

It would be presumptuous to offer any definitive answer to this question, but the matter has to be raised, and the problem addressed.  Does the Filipino find in family ties and bonds a value so high that others, including the prospect of higher salaries and more comfortable living, can be sacrificed for it?  And if the Filipino’s valuation of the family has suffered a downturn, what can the Philippine Church do about it?

Obviously, the Philippine phenomenon is also symptomatic of a universal phenomenon: a re-thinking and a re-shaping of elemental units, the family principally among them.  And while many Filipino OFWs will declare that the sacrifice of living apart from spouse and children is one they willingly make ‘for the sake of the family’, one wonders what notion of family life and what norms of family membership Filipinos have when they willing forego conjugal cohabitation, they miss out on the childhood and adolescence of their children, they become strangers to their own families — while they make a pile abroad.

If, as Gaudium et Spes boldly proclaimed, the Church is the expert on humanity, then this anthropological and sociological question has to be something that merits the Church’s serious reflection, the debates and studies of its scholars, and the guiding voice of its shepherds.

CBCP statement on the proposed Bangsamoro law – Document

Sr Cecilia Espenilia OP with Muslim girl in Luneta. - NJ Viehland Photo

Sr Cecilia Espenilia OP with Muslim girl in Luneta. – NJ Viehland Photo

Following is the CBCP President’s statement sent to Catholic in Asia in Manila, Sept. 27, 2014

PEACE BE WITH YOU! ASSALAMU  ALAIKUM! 

CBCP Statement on the Bangsa Moro Proposed Law

 

When Jesus, the Lord, breathed his Spirit and his peace on the apostles, he did so as the fulfillment and summation of all that he had been sent to be and to do for the world!  Peace is therefore God’s gift.  We must cooperate with God, for we can and often do stand in the way of peace.  But we must pray for it and never, for a moment, think that we can, by our cleverness, calculation and strategic craft win it for ourselves!

Hopes for Peace

The Executive Branch has submitted to the Legislature a bill that, if passed, will become the organic law of the political entity already called “Bangsamoro”.  Many in Mindanao — and the government itself — pin their hopes on this latest attempt at what is hoped will be a definitive solution to the beautiful land of Mindanao that has, unfortunately, seen so much violence and has had so much of Filipino blood — Muslim and Christian alike — spilled on its soil!  The CBCP stands with the government and with all earnestly seek and strive after peace.  It commends the efforts not only of the present peace panel that, together with representatives of Muslim Mindanao, has hammered out the accord that presaged the introduction of the bill, but also those of earlier peace panels under prior administrations.  The dream of peace in Mindanao has been a common national aspiration for a very long time now.

Dialogue and Debate with Charity

The CBCP now urges the Legislature to do its part: To study the measure assiduously, to debate it vigorously and to place the interests of the nation and the vision of lasting, principled peace before every petty consideration.  Let those who have reservations to the proposal, or even those who oppose it, speak their minds freely, coherently and without reserve, and let those who advocate it argue as strenuously in its defense, for only in the context of intelligent — but charitable — discourse can we hope for a reasonable outcome and resolution.  The lessons we have learned from the painful conflicts that now rend apart the troubled nations of the Middle East should leave no doubt that, to be enduring and acceptable, any settlement, any organic act, any piece of constitutive legislation must be as inclusive as possible.  We particularly insist on the participation in the exchange and debate of the members of the indigenous cultural communities and the indigenous peoples in Mindanao.  It would violate the tenets of social justice to ignore them under the pretext of going by the desires of the majority!

Inclusive and Embracing

The effort the government has taken to arrive at an agreement acceptable to all Filipinos underscores the premium that must be placed on the political and territorial integrity of the entire country.  History — guided by The Lord of History — has fashioned our nation as one.  Let us keep it one — in that variety of ethnicities, cultures, languages and peoples that makes it one of the most alluring pieces of Divine workmanship in the world.

The emergence of Bangsamoro should not mean the exclusion of any Filipino from any part of the country by reason of religious belief, ethnicity or language.  Our Muslim brothers and sisters have found their way through various parts of the archipelago, settling in many provinces heretofore almost exclusively peopled by Christians.  As far as we know, they have been welcomed, received and respected.  It is our hope that Christians too may receive hospitality in those parts of the one Republic that, by legislation, may be marked out as Bangsamoro.

Let every Filipino turn to the same God, the one Father of us all with the fervent prayer: Make me an instrument of your peace!

September 28, 2014, San Lorenzo Ruiz Feast

 

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. – NJ Viehland Photos

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
    Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
    CBCP President

No surrender of “love of God” in educating Filipinos – DepEd Sec De La Salle Bro. Luistro

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education - FaceBook Photo

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education – FaceBook Photo

Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro, a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) denied reports that the department he leads has surrendered its vision of learners formed to be “God-loving,” as claimed in various media reports on the department’s revised statement of vision, mission and values (VMV.)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the same day  issued a statement lamenting the silence about God in the reworded version of the  vision statement.

Brother Luistro explained the new statement of the department’s VMV in a post on the DepEd’s website Friday, Aug. 29. He stressed that the statement of vision, mission and values must be taken in its entirety. Doing so would show that the term “God-loving” remains as a value that the department seeks to promote as stated in the word “Maka-Diyos”, its synonym in Filipino language.

He said specifying the formation of students who are  God-loving, pro-people, pro-environment and patriotic allows values education teachers to develop modules that will form persons of integrity who live out their faith and convictions, while avoiding pietism or ritualism.

“We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners.”

He also affirmed the constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. He said the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue.

Brother Luistro’s complete statement reads:

On 4 September 2013, I released DepEd Order No. 36 s. 2013 in order to update the Agency’s directions and further strengthen our capacity to fulfill our constitutional mandate.  The review of our Vision and Mission was anchored on the Filipino Core Values of *Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa as articulated in Section 40, Republic Act 8491. [*pro-God, pro-human being, pro-environment, patriotic]

Recent media reports have mistakenly attributed to me claiming, “the God-loving phrase was removed from the department’s vision to be fair to Filipinos who may subscribe to other beliefs and principles”. I had not issued any statement to that effect. This attribution is completely false.

Other articles refer to a Christian advocacy group whose spokesperson “aired the group’s dissatisfaction over what it believes is a rash decision on DepEd’s part that had been influenced by some members of the non-religious sector.”  Other local news articles referred to a group claiming to have pressured the Department based on an open letter that they posted on 5 February 2013 via their Twitter account.  I have not had the occasion to interact with any of these groups on this matter.

As early as 2010, discussions on the revision of the VMV were initiated within the department. A series of consultations was conducted with key persons in various levels of the organization, including the regions and school divisions.

It is important that the DepEd’s new VMV be regarded as one document to be appreciated in its entirety.

The term “God-loving” is synonymous with Maka-Diyos. The term Maka-Diyos is essentially connected with Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa and allows our Values Education teachers to develop modules that will hopefully form persons of integrity.  It warns against pietism or ritualism and encourages persons of faith to live those convictions everyday, everywhere.

We maintain that the formation of God-loving learners is a vision that we have not surrendered. We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners. We affirm the long-established constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. We also affirm that the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue, as this is a part of learning to live together.

************

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – NJ Viehland Photos

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia 

CBCP President on the 2013 Version of the Vision Statement of the Department of Education

The Department of Education recently re-worded its Vision Statement.  In the past, the department tasked with the formation of our children once envisioned “functionally literate and God-fearing Filipinos”.  Unfortunately, in its 2013 version, there is no more mention of God, nor of the salutary fear of Him that, Scripture tells us, is the beginning of all wisdom.

A vision statement is not an empty platitude.  It guides the articulation of policy.  It orientates plans of action.  While maka-Diyos remains one of the Department’s core-values, we maintain that the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”  This is what Vatican II teaches in “Gravissimum Educationis“. 

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. - NJ Viehland Photos

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. – NJ Viehland Photos

The right of a child to recognize God, to love him and to hope in him cannot be harmful to anyone else, believer or not.  Our pluralistic society indeed accords respect for the option of some to believe and for others not to. This respect for pluralism does not compel civil society to expunge the name of God from public life, especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence. Furthermore, the attitude of our laws in the Philippines towards religion is characterized as’benevolent neutrality’: the accommodation of religion whenever such accommodation does not offend law or public policy.

We exhort our Catholic laity in public elementary and high schools to be zealous in the apostolate of forming pupils and students. Do not get tired of teaching that God is the beginning and the end of all things, that he is the Father who wishes all to have life, and to have it to the full! 

This, our dear public school teachers, is your particular mission in the life of the Church, the dignity of your calling as evangelizers within the world and its concerns.  It is a challenge of particular urgency in this, the Year of the Laity. Stand up for God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

August 29, 2014, Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS   

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan  

President, CBCP

************

At least 20 million students enrolled in public pre-school to high school in school year 2011-2012 and 3 million reportedly enrolled in private schools for those levels.

 
 

 

Text of CBCP President’s call to a day of prayer for peace in Iraq

Most people who joined the 2012 Grand Mission Congress in Marikina City last April were students, teachers, professionals and workers from the youth sector. (N.J. Viehland Photos)

Students, teachers, professionals and workers from the youth sector joined in prayer at the 2012 Grand Mission Congress in Marikina City – N.J. Viehland Photos

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, echoing Pope Francis’ recent Angelus prayers, has asked his fellow prelates to offer all their Masses on August 18 for peace in Iraq. 

Following is the text of his appeal sent to Catholic In Asia:

This Monday August 18, 2014 at the conclusion of his apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis will preside at Mass at the Myeong Dong Cathedral for Peace and Reconciliation. In recent days, we have been made aware of the perilous and life threatening situation that our Christian brethren in northern Iraq are going through.

At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them.  To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer; I know that you are deprived of everything.  I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation.  Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence …. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us!”

Therefore as a gesture of spiritual unity with our persecuted brethren in northern Iraq and in response to the call of the Holy Father that all the faithful in the whole Church raise a voice of ceaseless prayer for the restoration of peace, I request my archbishops and bishops in the Philippines to offer all our Masses on August 18 as Votive Mass for Peace and Reconciliation in Iraq. It is humbly requested that the archbishops and bishops also disseminate this information to all the priests and mandate the priests to offer the same prayers in all their Masses on August 18. 

It would be opportune for our school children to be asked to pray the rosary in school on August 18 for the healing of Iraq. Let us be united with Pope Francis in this quest for peace. 

Let there be peace!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Manila, August 12, 2014 

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

 Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

 CBCP President

 

 

Bishops’ conference not part of latest complaint to impeach Aquino, CBCP

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. – NJ Viehland Photos

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan signed the impeachment complaint against President Benigno Aquino III on Monday as an individual and does not represent the position of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), conference president Archbishop Socrates Villegas stressed in a statement shortly after the filing.

Archbishop Cruz joined 27 other individuals in filing the complaint and petitioning the House of Representatives to impeach Aquino over a funds disbursement program called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court has ruled as unconstitutional. 

“I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment,” Archbishop Villegas wrote.

He added that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the CBCP.

Villegas said the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines “neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President” nor will it “begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights.”

Acknowledging today’s “difficult and confusing times,” the prelate reiterated his call for everyone to submit to the Constitution as the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government adding that there is a very important distinction between what is popular — or appear to be so — and what is right.

Following is the full text of  Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia:

Through the media, I have been informed that Archbishop emeritus Oscar V. Cruz is one of the signatories of an impeachment complaint filed with the House of Representatives against the incumbent President.

I have no doubt that the good Archbishop himself will like it clarified that his decision to be one of the complainants is his alone, in the exercise of his discretion and as a result of his personal discernment.  As in the past, Archbishop Cruz has exhibited a lively interest in the events of our day, as should all Catholics.

It should also be clear, however, that the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines. That is to say that the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President, but it will neither begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights.

These are difficult and often confusing times.  We reiterate our earlier call for all to submit to the Constitution as the prime expression of the covenant by which the Filipino people have determined the form and the operations of their government.  There is a very important distinction between what is popular — or appear to be so — and what is right.

I pray that all our officials ever be cognizant of this important difference so that all may resist the temptation of pursuing a course of action only because it seems to be popular.  We urge respect for the breadth and the limits of constitutionally allocated powers between the great branches of government.

In the wake of recent events of which the public has been made aware through the media, we stand for an independent judiciary. To insist that ours be a government of laws and not of men is not to subordinate the human person to the law, but to uphold the equality of all before the law so that the powerful may not trample upon the week and so that all enjoy the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

Let the government show the citizenry that the law is at all times to be obeyed, for only under such a regime are rights and liberties safeguarded.

We urge our citizens to keep themselves informed, to be circumspect in their actions and in their statements, and to allow their discernment at all times to be inspired by the Gospel, and governed by the law of love.

July 21, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

Read also

Catholic bishop, missionary priest among those seeking Philippines president’s impeachment

CBCP Document : Pastoral Letter to Prepare for 2015 Papal Visit

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines officially announced Pope Francis’ visit to the country next year and recommended ways for Filipinos to prepare for the visit spiritually and socially, in the spirit of “mercy and compassion” underlying the visit.

Following is the full text of the document issued July 7 in Manila …

 

A Nation of Mercy and Compassion

Miserando atque Eligendo (Lowly but Chosen)

Pastoral Letter to Prepare the People of God for the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan walks back to the plenary hall at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center after a break in the 2012 plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which he now serves as President. – NJ Viehland Photos

MY dear people of God:

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Philippines officially announces the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to the Philippines, God willing at the beginning of next year, 2015. His visit carries a message of pastoral love, mercy and compassion from a Pope with the scent of a Good Shepherd (cf. John 10). Even though, this will be the fourth papal visit to our nation, for Pope Francis he will be the third Pope to visit our country. As the Successor to the Chair of Peter, the Holy Father is coming to strengthen his brothers and sisters (cf. Luke 22:32).

The underlying spirit of this Papal visit is the theme of “mercy and compassion” the cherished ideals of Jesus. In this regard, Matthew 9:36 tells us that Jesus “seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” In this context, Pope Francis comes to revive our “drooping spirit” and to lead us to greener pastures (cf. Psalm 23). Hence, he is bringing to us “the joy of the gospel” enshrined in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Usually, our first reaction to the news of a papal visit is understandably one of euphoria and thanksgiving. The excitement of seeing Pope Francis in the Philippines is rising as the year 2015 gets nearer. However, we must prepare the nation to receive the Holy Father by setting our minds and hearts in communion with our dear Pope Francis, the messenger of peace, love, and the apostle of the poor. Our compassionate shepherd comes to show his deep concern for our people who have gone through devastating calamities, especially in the Visayas. He comes to confirm us in our faith as we face the challenges of witnessing to the Joy of the Gospel in the midst of our trials.

This is an eloquent way of showing mercy and compassion. Accordingly, in his Apostolic Exhortation, he has already voiced this concern in these words: “some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting” (Evangelii Gaudium 54). And the Pope comes to bring hope to our excluded Philippines. He brings a message to the poor among us.

A PEOPLE EAGER TO WELCOME

Let us allow Pope Francis himself to prepare us for his visit. How? The guiding motto of our dear Pope Francis is Miserando atque eligendo (meaning ‘lowly but chosen’). The literal translation from Latin is ‘by having mercy, by choosing him’. We can equally adapt this to be the motto of our nation as well. Though we are lowly among the nations, yet we have been chosen to receive the blessings of the Vicar of Christ. In this regard, Pope Francis reminds us that “the Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium 114).

Consistent with this, the Holy Father has clearly laid out his wish that the main objective of his visit is to bring Christ’s compassion for our suffering people still struggling to rise from the devastations wrought by the earthquake and typhoon that hit the Visayas.

This demand of Pope Francis is also consistent with Daniel 4:24 (NAB) which says: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Accordingly, it is not the logistics, security and infrastructure that best prepare us for the papal visit. Let us be like Pope Francis in his humility and his compassion. Let us make his apostolic journey of mercy to be ours even before he arrives.

A POPE RICH IN MERCY

In connection with the recent canonization of Saint John Paul II, and the remarkable emphasis Pope Francis has been giving to this particular element in Christian life, may we choose MERCY, incarnated, embodied, symbolized in the poor amongst us, to be placed at the center of this spiritual preparation for the papal visit.

It was Saint John Paul II who wrote deeply and movingly of God Our Father as “Dives in Misericordia”. In that profound encyclical, “mercy” was his name for God. Pope Francis, from the first days of his pontificate, has been preaching insistently and passionately on God’s constant and untiring mercy, and on the primacy of the Church’s mission of mercy and compassion in the world of our time.

It is noteworthy that perhaps the first major doctrinal-spiritual book of Pope Francis, which has been published in English bears the title, “The Church of Mercy”. The book “presents the heart of his teaching on the most fundamental themes of his vision of a new way of being Church.”

In it, the Holy Father asks: “Are we a Church that really calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? … Are we a Church which is a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by God’s love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost? … Are we a Church where the face of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the other?”

EMBRACING THE MERCY OF GOD

From Pope Francis’ teaching, two aspects of mercy may be singled out.

First, the mercy and the patience of God toward sinners are made manifest in Jesus. Jesus is “the visible face of the mercy of God.” As the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, “God is there always, always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us the merciful patience of God.” And “this patience of God calls forth in us the courage to return to him, however many the sins and mistakes there may be in our lives.” Like Thomas in the gospel, “we too can enter into the wounds of Jesus; we can actually touch him. This happens every time we receive the sacraments with faith.” “It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his Heart.”

Secondly, we encounter Jesus in living out his own compassion and mercy towards our bothers and sisters in need and poverty, in suffering, loneliness, in hopelessness. “To meet the living God we must tenderly kiss the wounds of Jesus in our hungry people, in the sick and in imprisoned brothers and sisters. Study, meditation and mortification are not enough to have us encounter the living Christ. Like the apostle Thomas, our life will only be changed when we touch Christ’s wounds present in the poor, the sick and the needy. The path to our encounter with Jesus is his wounds. There is no other.” (Pope Francis, 3 July 2013)

A question then arises. In our Christian lives, where may we in fact draw the profound spirituality of mercy that can truly help us prepare spiritually for the papal visit? “They will look upon him whom they have pierced” (John 19: 37, NAB). The Fourth Gospel, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote, sums up the whole Christian spirituality. In this great image we see the whole story of our salvation in Jesus. We see God’s faithful love and mercy shining forth from the Cross. And we see the human response to that merciful love also in the pierced Heart of Christ.

A PEOPLE RICH IN MERCY

The most distinctive way to prepare spiritually for the coming of Pope Francis is for the Philippines to become a people rich in mercy. Let us make mercy our national identity. Trust in God’s mercy is part and parcel of our traditional Filipino Christian culture. Let us make the practice of mercy our gift to the Pope when he comes to visit us.

Concretely, in this period of preparation for the visit of Pope Francis, we are bidden to turn to the fountain of all mercy, Jesus, and encounter the Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And having received such mercy we in turn practice acts of mercy.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbour in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all of these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.” (CCC 2447)

At the societal level, let us also not forget to address justice and mercy issues in the root causes of poverty and inequality in our country – such as the protection of the environment, the completion of agrarian reform, and the continuing challenges of good governance, peace-building, and inclusive growth for all.

A PREPARATION RICH IN MERCY

Mother sleeps with her toddler during a break from selling outside the convent of Sisters of St. Claire in Quezon City. NJ Viehland Photos

Mother sleeps with her toddler during a break from selling outside the convent of Sisters of St. Claire in Quezon City. NJ Viehland Photos

We encourage you our dear people to resolve to make an act of mercy every day.

You can reach out to a lonely stranger. You can tell the story of Jesus to a child eager to understand and feel the love of God. You can advise a confused co-worker. You can forgive someone who has wronged you.

You can give food to a hungry beggar. You can contribute to building homes for the typhoon victims. You can visit those in jail or prison. You can visit the charity ward of hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, homes for the elderly and orphanages. You can condole with the grieving families whose loved ones just died. You can give alms to the poor.

You can show mercy by making it a habit to say “please”, “thank you” or a kind word of appreciation. Refraining from cursing and using hurting words is an act of mercy. Being polite to the children and infants, to the sick and the elderly are great acts of mercy.

As we prepare for the coming of the Pope we are asked to have more access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and encourage our priests to increase their availability and visibility at the confessional, and turn earnestly to fervent participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice and even spend more time in Eucharistic adoration and to zealously be involved in making our Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith-communities as venues for mercy and reconciliation. Let us prepare to see the Pope by reviving personal and family prayer. Pope Francis has challenged us to restore family prayer and devotion in our homes.

All of this opens to, nourishes, and sustains in our lives the gift of Mercy from the Heart of Jesus! May our Shrines of Divine Mercy be the source of inspiration and strength for our families.

When the Pope comes, he will bring with him the message of the mercy and compassion of God. When he meets us, may he see in us a people touched by the mercy of God, living out the compassion of God, a people truly rich in mercy and compassion and grateful to those who have shown mercy to us especially after various calamities hit our country.

May Mary, Our Mother of Mercy prepare us to meet Jesus in Pope Francis!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, July 7, 2014

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President
7 July 2014

CBCP Document: Our Moral Response to the Unconstitutionality of DAP

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

The Supreme Court has ruled that many government acts under the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) are without constitutional authority. Earlier, it ruled the Priority Assistant Development Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as the ‘pork-barrel fund’ also unconstitutional.

Why this Statement

The just distribution of the resources of the nation in accordance with the prescriptions of law and the tenets of morality is an issue of social justice. It is therefore a concern of the CBCP — and of the entire Church in the Philippines — as well.

Both DAP and PDAF involve enormous sums and while it is claimed by the government officials involved that these went into projects that benefited the people, there are serious allegations that we cannot summarily dismiss and ignore. Three senators have been charged, together with others, for the illegal use of pork-barrel funds. It is claimed that a considerable part went into ghost NGOs set up precisely to facilitate the conversion of public funds for personal and other illegal and immoral uses.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica's College museum.

Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan joined women legislators, whistleblowers, students and other members of Babala (warning) movement for the abolition of pork barrel and prosecution of legislators and public officials guilty of graft, corruption and plunder. NJ Viehland Photo at St. Scholastica’s College museum.

Communal Guilt

But there is no reason to direct our ire only at the three senators, nor at those presently accused, for we must humbly recognize that the propensity to make use of what is not ours to better the lives of our families or to gain access to luxuries that would otherwise be beyond us will be found in all of us.

We are all guilty by attitude and by our disposition.

We renew our call for national conversion — the conversion not only of individuals but of institutions as well! It will be well for us to remember that conversion is our response to the ceaseless call of Love Incarnate, Jesus, to ‘turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel’.

We must pray together for the grace of conversion, because the prosecution and punishment of a few will not rid the nation of the propensity to corruption that is found in us all!

Appeal to Government

We call on the Commission on Audit and on the Office of the Ombudsman to tell the nation where DAP funds went. While, indeed, in many cases, it would be impractical, unhelpful even, to undo every project funded by what the High Court has ruled to be unconstitutional means, we must nevertheless know how these monies were used, for where there was illegal and immoral application of funds, there must be restitution.

There must be accountability.

We reiterate our position that investigation and inquest cannot and must not be selective, for public perception that some are shielded while others are persecuted detracts from the confidence people must repose in their institutions.

A government that professes to tread the straight path must remain true to that profession and must be willing to let go of the corrupt in its own ranks! We in the Church will do the same.

Many of our bishops have already established systems for the accountability of our pastors and parish leaders. We have issued guidelines so that we may be more vigilant about the provenance of donations and grants. This way, we in the Church strive to respond to the demands of honesty and fairness.

Let us restore integrity in our land.

From the Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila, July 4, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Cardinal Tagle: Upcoming synod will reflect clear picture of families

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the Synod on the Family, at the June 10 press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress discussed the synod in his response to National Catholic Reporter's question: What can Catholics who are not allowed to receive the Eucharist hope for in the upcoming synod. - NJ Viehland Photo

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the Synod on the Family, at the June 10 press conference on the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress discussed the synod in his response to National Catholic Reporter’s question: What can Catholics who are not allowed to receive the Eucharist hope for in the upcoming synod. – NJ Viehland Photo

For Philippines Cardinal Luis Tagle, the two stages of the Synod of Bishops on the family that Pope Francis will convene in Rome are “hopeful signs” that the Church is willing to listen not only to the success stories and joys of families, but also to the difficulties families experience worldwide.

At a June 10 press conference in Manila, Cardinal Tagle pointed out various reasons why Filipino spouses separate, some of them because of marital problems, but many others “because of poverty that leads to forced migration.” He described the latter as “separation because they love.” 

Daniel and Evita Licardo (seated) celebrated their silver wedding anniversary with their daughters, relatives and friends grateful for "blessings" they received especially while Daniel was away, working in Kuwait since one year after they were married. - Photo by Noriza Licardo published with permission.

Daniel and Evita Licardo (seated) celebrated their silver wedding anniversary with their daughters, relatives and friends grateful for “blessings” they received especially while Daniel was away, working in Kuwait since one year after they were married. – Photo by Noriza Licardo published with permission.

 

Cardindal Tagle said Pope Francis wants various voices on the matter of separation of spouses to be heard.

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